How the pandemic has reshaped my perception of that first live experience with the Zep legend.
Come Father’s Day, it will be two years since I finally witnessed a live performance by one of my all-time favorite singers—the mighty Robert Plant. Sure, I’d watched The Song Remains the Same, the 1985 Live Aid broadcast, the 2003 double-disc, and plenty of other Zep footage, but I’d never seen him in person. It was a hot, humid outdoor gig at Chicago’s Millennium Park near the shores of Lake Michigan, and—even pushing 70—Plant was incredible: Soulful and impressively on-pitch, he walked the stage completely at-ease with his legacy, mostly letting the music do the speaking, but also periodically dispensing warm, dry wit and paying tribute to blues artists of yore that he, Page, Jones, and Bonham borrowed so liberally from. His band the Sensational Space Shifters (with guitarists Justin Adams and Liam “Skin” Tyson) sounded fantastic, too.
What surprised me, though, was that—as great as the band grooved and wailed on everything from Zep classics like “Four Sticks,” “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” and “Gallows Pole” to Plant’s ’80s breakout solo hit “In the Mood” and Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die”—the tune that struck me most was the title track from Plant’s then-new solo album, Carry Fire.
It’s not hard to fathom why newer material might’ve inspired Plant and the Space Shifters more than decades-old numbers they’ve performed a zillion times—especially since the tune meant enough to them to also become the album name. But it is notable that “Carry Fire” struck me harder than so many wonderfully executed soundtrack songs from my youth, particularly since, prior to the show, the song hadn’t meant a whole lot to me. From the outset, the nearly 8-minute epic—with the building intensity of its Middle Eastern-flavored, oud-like lines, hypnotic drums, subtly propelling bass line, and dueling violin-and-Tele Deluxe leads (not to mention the mesmerizing light show)—was captivating, moving. And the intimate, confessional lyrics lent an air of longing and mystery. Now, in 2020—after more than three months of coronavirus lockdown, social distancing, etc.—they take on a different, more poignant meaning … at least for the short term.
I sit and wait for you / Like so many others do / Just like they do for me / Well so I do for you / I'd carry fire for you / Here in my naked hands / I’d bare my heart to you / If you will understand … I'm reaching out for you / Across the broken gate / I feel the gathering years / Beyond these lonely wastes….
As I write this, nations, states, and communities around the world are in various states of easing restrictions on work and social life as COVID-19 fatigue sets in, and with mixed results and feelings by citizens, too. Scientific consensus tells us there is still very real danger to our physical health, though there is reportedly some slow medical progress being made on vaccines and treatments. Regardless, pretty much everyone is suffering through some of the most trying circumstances of our lives—and on so many different levels: economically, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
We’re all “used to” this shitty new facet of existence, even if we land at different points on the spectrum of total life impact, vulnerability, and anxiety. I have no magic answers or big insights to offer. Like most of you, I’m a bit worn down, but grateful I haven’t lost any loved ones to this pandemic, grateful I still have a job, and grateful to still be able to escape some of the shittiness of pandemic life with help from my family, my guitars, and the home-recording projects I’m working on with my band.
The best I can say is that I will continue to carry fire for them—for my wife, kids, siblings, friends, and music. And for you, my friends in guitar. I will continue to bare my heart to you in this space each month (with some ridiculous nonsense mixed in, too, of course). I’ll keep reaching out for you, across the broken gate, beyond these lonely wastes. We will get through this.Be well and remember to take care of yourselves, friends.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.